Rourke, wrestler, barfly, Bukowksi

2009-02-08, , Comments

Mickey Rourke at the BAFTAs

Mickey Rourke shambles on stage, hunches over the mike, cusses a bit, thanks his best mates for sticking by him, shambles off again. Actors: you never know when they’re acting and when they’re not, and I’m not convinced they do either.

Rourke’s best actor gong comes for his portrayal of Randy “The Ram” Robinson in The Wrester, a film I watched with my brother a couple of weeks ago. It’s a terrific film but makes for uncomfortable viewing: the wheezy soundtrack and out of focus imagery take us directly into Randy’s world, a world where the wrestling matches may be staged, but the blood, scars and pain are all too real.

Randy The Ram Robinson

On the surface it’s about a faded wrestler who defies health problems for one last comeback bout; but it’s tempting to see it as Rourke’s own story. In The Ram’s words.

I just want to say to you all tonight I’m very grateful to be here. A lot of people told me that I’d never wrestle again and that’s all I do. You know, if you live hard and play hard and you burn the candle at both ends, you pay the price for it. You know in this life you can lose everything you love, everything that loves you. Now I don’t hear as good as I used to and I forget stuff and I aint as pretty as I used to be but god damn it I’m still standing here and I’m The Ram. As times goes by, as times goes by, they say “he’s washed up”, “he’s finished”, “he’s a loser”, “he’s all through”. You know what? The only one that’s going to tell me when I’m through doing my thing is you people here.

Charles Bukowksi

In 1987, at the peak of his success, Mickey Rourke chose to play writer Charles Bukowski in the film Barfly. Bukowski is best known for his books about Henry Chinaski, a womanizing, gambling drunk who lurches from one dead-end job to the next. To what extent are these books autobiographical? I’m not sure, but I do know Bukowski was sober enough to write a lot of great material. I particularly recommend his first novel, Post Office.

Post Office

Rourke shed his pretty boy looks and gained several kilos to play Bukowski in Barfly, a film which was also scripted by Bukowski, but now botched plastic sugery and one bout too many in a boxing ring have spoiled his looks for real. He remains charismatic, a fine actor, but what other roles can there be for him? Henry Chinaski, fictional post office worker?